Brazil police amass at camp of Bolsonaro’s backers after capital stormed


Brasilia (Reuters) – Brazilian police amassed at a camp of supporters of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro in the capital on Monday, a day after rioters launched the worst attack on Brazil’s state institutions since its return to democracy in the 1980s.

After thousands of Bolsonaro’s backers stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace on Sunday, hundreds of police in riot gear and some on horseback deployed at the pro-Bolsonaro camp outside Brasilia’s army headquarters, while soldiers in the area withdrew, Reuters witnesses said.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s leftist rival who took office on Jan. 1 after a narrow October election win, promised to bring those responsible for the violence to justice, after demonstrators broke windows and furniture, destroyed art work and stole guns and artifacts.

Lula, who was back at work at the Planalto presidential palace, planned to meet his defense minister and armed forces commanders to discuss the attacks that recalled the assault on the U.S. Capitol two years ago by backers of former President Donald Trump.

U.S. President Joe Biden joined other world leaders in condemning Sunday’s riots, calling them “outrageous”, while Bolsonaro who is now in Florida denied inciting his supporters and said the rioters had “crossed the line”.

Pro-Bolsonaro truckers, who have caused havoc on Brazil’s highways for weeks, held more protests through the night.

A toll road operator for the BR 163 highway that cuts through Brazil’s top grain producing state Mato Grosso reported several blockades that were cleared by dawn. Police said blockages on another highway in Parana state were also cleared.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the governor of Brasilia removed from office late on Sunday for 90 days over alleged security failings and demanded that social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and TikTok block accounts of users spreading anti-democratic propaganda.

Facebook parent Meta (META.O) said on Monday it was removing content supporting or praising the weekend actions. Telegram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fascist Assault

Lula, a former union organizer who was also president from 2003 to 2010, said the local militarized police force that reports to Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha, a former Bolsonaro ally, did nothing to stop the protesters advancing.

Lula decreed federal intervention of public security in the capital and promised exemplary punishment for the leaders of the “fascist” assault that was aimed at provoking a military coup that could restore Bolsonaro to power.

“All the people who did this will be found and punished,” Lula told reporters from Sao Paulo State.

He blamed Bolsonaro for inflaming his supporters after a campaign of baseless allegations about election fraud after the end of his rule marked by divisive nationalist populism.

From Florida, where Bolsonaro flew 48 hours before his term ended, the former president rejected the accusation. He said on Twitter that peaceful demonstrations were democratic but the invasion of government buildings “crossed the line.”

The assault raised questions among Lula’s allies about how security forces in the capital were so unprepared for rioters who had discussed their plans on social media for days.

The occupation of the government buildings had been planned for at least two weeks by Bolsonaro’s supporters in groups on messaging platforms such as Telegram and Twitter, yet there was no move by security forces to prevent the attack, called by one group “the seizure of power by the people.”

Police retook the damaged public buildings in the futuristic capital after three hours and dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said 200 demonstrators had been arrested, although that number is expected to rise.

Dino said investigations aimed to uncover who financed the several hundred buses that brought Bolsonaro’s supporters to Brasilia and question the suspended Brasilia governor.

Bolsonaro faces legal risks from several investigations before the Supreme Court in Brazil and his future in the United States, where he traveled on a visa issued only to sitting presidents, is in question.

“Bolsonaro should not be in Florida,” Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro said on CNN. “The United States should not be a refuge for this authoritarian who has inspired domestic terrorism in Brazil. He should be sent back to Brazil.”

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